Wednesday, August 17, 2011

21 Questions for the Prime Minister of India

Dear Prime Minister,
In the light of the arrest of Anna Hazare and his team, I have a few questions that have been confusing me.

1) Is it a crime to ask for greater accountability, transparency in the way the government functions especially in light of all the allegations of corruption, Swiss bank hoarding etc that have plagued us?

2) Is an anti-corruption movement (a stronger Lokpal Bill) something that must be dealt with so strongly, an iron hand as in a military coup?

3) Are the corruption charges against Anna Hazare so serious that it warrants instant action as against all the dilly dallying against people who are still in power, who are brokering deals, who are threatening your government with ill gotten money and subsequent political clout?

4) Is it more important to stay in power than do the right thing?

5) Is Anna Hazare enemy No 1 of the state? What crime has he done?

6) Is the peaceful protest of an old man so dangerous that the state whisks him away at night when there are netas going on protests and fasts everyday and your government seems to be doing nothing about it? Our MPs are going about doing things as they please, holding dharnas, erecting statues, breaking statues, destroying public property and nothing happens to them.

7) Can you not see what the who world is seeing, that Anna is a symbol, a voice of frustration that the common man feels? That the common man is sick to death of this double dealing, double talk, insincere politics, shameless clinging to power at any cost?

8) Is the threat to launch a peaceful anti-graft agitation more dangerous than the threats to burn entire cities with unconstitutional methods, to kill people on the name of community that the government moves so quickly and forcefully and puts away an ageing freedom fighter, an upright police officer and a former beaurocrat? Is he more dangerous than communal parties that threaten the government brazenly to arrest them and see Mumbai burn?

9) Is this the Gandhian way? Is this how the founding fathers of our nation, built on such high principles and moral rectitude, would have guided you to deal with this situation?

10) Are you for protecting the corrupt?

11) Are you for hiding all those who are likely to be affected by the stronger Lokpal Bill?

12) Is this the leadership and direction you wish to give the youth of India? Protect the rich and corrupt at any cost?

13) Is this act moral?

14) Is it justified that people with far greater, far more serious charges than Anna Hazare are roaming the streets - murder, arson, genocide, corruption, causing loss to the nation, bribery, threat to peace - you name it you have it.

15) Is this what you were made Prime Minister for?

16) Is this doing your job? You say there is no magic wand to cure corruption. Isn't your job to try everything in your power to cure it?

17) Is it easy to sleep at night having done this? Having dealt with peaceful anti-graft protestors, having smeared them with all kinds of juvenile charges that are so laughable and petty compared to the large scale dacoity that is all around you?

18) You say you wish to bring a more powerful Lokpal draft and end corruption but you jail all those who ask for stronger Lokpal Bills. What does it mean?

19) Is this the legacy you would like to leave for your country? Softer laws to protect the corrupt, harsher laws for the small fry?

20) Do you think that we are all blind, deaf, mute?

21) Are you proud of what your government has done?


Anonymous said...

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking on this Lok-Pal bill issue. I’m still not convinced that it’s the right way. Now I fully understand something has to give. We simply cannot go on like it is now with all the corruption.

But is creating another power center, made up off non-elected members and has sweeping powers over the investigative and judicial branches of the government the right way? What about the separation of the powers and the checks and balances. Our government is based on these principles. Granted, it’s not working very well. But it is working. India is among the fastest growing economies in the world.

Look at the progress we have made as a country in the last 60 years. Almost every indicator of progress is on the up-tick. Food production, industrial output, hunger and poverty reduction, women’s rights, health care accesses etc. Yes we need to do more and we need to do it faster.

I’ll be the first to admit that we may have reached a plateau with the current system and all its endemic faults. But let’s not toss a system that’s worked pretty well under the threat of blackmail. That’s what Anna Hazare is doing, holding a gun to the country and saying “my way or else…..”.

The line I’ve heard most often from the bill’s supporters is “look at the election commission and how well it works”. The comparision is that the election commission is not an elected body and that it’s beyond reproach. Really! If the election commission had done its job well we would not be in the mess we are now. Aren’t they the ones responsible to keep the elections fair?

A detailed description of the Jan Lok-Pal bill and the government’s version can be found on the web. I’m not sure which one scares me more. The Jan Lok-Pal scares me due to the vast sweeping powers it assigns to itself. The government’s version for the abject hypocrisy contained in it. The government bill is a de-fanged version of the original bill, it can accomplish nothing. The deception and preserving their self-intrest is obivious in the government version of the bill.

So instead of focusing on completely revamping our current system why not use all this energy that Anna Hazare has generated, on using the existing laws to clean up the system. Annaji has done a really commendable job of channeling people’s frustrations into a mass movement.

Why not focus on the election commission. It’s a body similar to that being proposed by the Lok-Pal bill. In fact it’s modeled after it. Here we have a body of non-elected officials charged with the task keeping our elections fair. A task they have failed miserably at. Why have another non-elected body to essentially clean the mess created by the first one. Seems pointless to me.

If we get the right people elected in the proper way, then all our problems would be solved. Seems too simple when stated like that, I know. But really is that not how our system is designed to work. If we are not happy with our elected officials we fire them in the next elections. That’s the way a democracy is meant to work. We are still a democracy…… aren’t we.


Harimohan said...

We are a democracy surely. However it appears that we have only one party. The opposition is almost non-existent. This scenario will not change very fast, so we can forget about getting things done through the parliamentary democratic system because it obviously affects the power centre of this one party.

All one wants is more transparency and accountability. If it be through this Jan Lokpal Bill so be it. I see no reason why the government should object to it if it really has the people's interests in mind.

Corruption hits everyone and directly. Elections don't - not directly. To use this energy for reforming the election commission is just not possible. No one has a stake in the elections because other than voting and hoping the right candidates win (what choice does one have anyway - all progressive thinking parties get routed for obvious reasons). There are more corrupt practices in the elections themselves with money, liquor flowing in large amounts, crores. The voting public gets Rs. 500 notes, Rs. 1000 notes with the party cards - from every party! The politicians know how to win elections, they have secured their vote banks in all kinds of devious manners, so they can challenge Anna Hazare to get elected because they know they will fight on their turf. Anna is smarter, he will fight on his turf, from the outside, which the law of the land permits - through protest.

There is a long way to go before this Bill gets passed. It will be fought tooth and nail. This struggle itself shows how reluctant the government is to be accountable. That itself tells the story. And that itself is the state of affairs.

How much steam this movement will have if Anna, the only symbol of this movement, steps down is another thing. That is the real tragedy - we need an old, retired freedom fighter to lead our movement against corruption, unlike in other places where the youth has taken it up.

Anna's spirit and will reminds one of the way of the freedom fighters where the goal was everything, all else was sacrificed for it. No one else can do this, can take such a tough stand against the government which is probably still trying to pin corruption charges on him. There can be no other agenda behind it but pure love for the motherland. And for that alone my support goes for him unconditionally.

Anonymous said...

Ok Hari, we both feel strongly about this. We'll leave it at that for now. We'll pick up the discussion over some beer and Biriyani when I get to Hyderabad.


Harimohan said...

Sure Madhav. And include a few more original thinkers like Koni on the subject while at it to get some outlandish perspectives that both sides would never have thought of. Like how everything is related to transaction tax!